I am always looking for ways to help teachers be more intentional and create deeper learning experiences for their students. Today, through the haze of Bombay Belly, I had an epiphany that may help you in similar learning situations.

Authentic project-based learning is in my humble opinion incompatible with curricular tricks like, Understanding by Design, where an adult determines what a children should know or do and then gives the illusion of freedom while kids strive to match the curriculum author’s expectation.

I view curriculum as the buoy, not the boat and find that a good idea is worth 1,000 benchmarks and standards.

Whether you agree with me or not, please consider my new strategy for encouraging richer classroom learning. I call it, “…and then?”

It goes something like this. Whenever a teacher asks a kid or group of kids to participate in some activity or engage in a project, ask, “..and then?” Try asking yourself, “..and then?” while you teach.

For example, when the kindergarten teacher has every child make a paper turkey or a cardboard clock, ask, “…and then?” This is like an improvisational game that encourages/requires teachers to extend the activity “that much” further.

You ask first graders to invent musical instrument. Rather than being content with the inventions, ask, “…and then?” You might then decide to:

  1. Ask each kid to compose a song to be played on their instrument
  2. Teach their song to a friend to play on their invented instrument
  3. The next day ask the kids to play the song they were taught yesterday from memory
  4. When they can’t remember how, you might ask each “composer” to write down the song so other players can remember it
  5. This leads to the invention of notational forms which can be compared and contrasted for efficacy or efficiency. This invention of notation leads to powerful ideas across multiple disciplines.

I think, “…and then?,” has application at any age and across any subject area.

Try it for yourself and let me know what you think!

Today, I received my copy of the brand new softcover edition of David Perkins’ terrific book, Making Learning Whole: How Seven Principles of Teaching Can Transform Education. I love this book and have given away countless copies, but the best thing about the new softcover edition is that I was asked by the publisher to provide a blurb for the back cover. My blurb now joins Howard Gardner and Linda Darling-Hammond – The Blurber Hall of Fame!

The final blurb was heavily edited to proper blurb length, but the following is what I originally wrote as an endorsement of Making Learning Whole.

An instant classic! Making Learning Whole will be used for decades by those interested in a framework for making classrooms better places for learning. The book performs a great service by reminding educators that each student comes first – complete with individual needs, talents, experience, curiosity and passion. The job of curriculum is to connect personal experience with powerful ideas, not deliver a bunch of facts in a mysterious incomprehensible sequence. Perkins takes such a common sense metaphor, playing the whole game, and uses it to transform the learning experience for each student.

For educators seeking a practical way to create productive contexts for learning, Making Learning Whole, is a superior approach to the top-down pedagogical tricks advanced by Understanding by Design.

You may purchase your own copy of Making Learning Whole by clicking any of the links or the book cover below.